Set the scene.

You’re working on a project you’ve been set by your boss. No biggie, you’ve done this before. You open the brief and realize, to your horror, you have no idea what the topic is about. 

“Knowledge Base Articles”? What are they? 

There’s no one around to ask at the moment, so you go to your search engine and type in the query:

‘What is a knowledge base article?’ 

In short, it’s exactly the thing you’re looking for: a document with information on it about a certain subject. It’s an article containing more or less everything you need to know about a certain area. Definitely something you can use to give yourself a boost when it comes to writing that blog piece

Knowledge base articles (KBAs) are the first port of call for research purposes. They act as a self-help device that allows you to find clear, accurate information quickly. These articles are essential parts of a larger group known simply as a knowledge base, which contains information that can be either internal and only accessible to a single company and its workers, or external (an open-source, self-service platform) and available to the public. 

A boy at a computer in a blue shirt types at the keyboard, nodding his head. Then the camera zooms in and he looks to the camera and nods with his thumb up
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What are some common features?

Whilst the style of a knowledge base article will change depending on what is being discussed, there are several key features that will almost always look the same. These are designed to help the user navigate each page to gather what information they need quickly. 

  • Straightforward titles. Long, rambling article titles won’t catch people’s attention. Simple titles with relevant keywords that perfectly answer your audience’s query are more likely to be clicked on.
  • A table of contents. This will let your end-users know what to expect in the article, and give them the option to jump right to the information they need.
  • Clearly labeled headers. This works hand-in-hand with the contents page. Whilst scrolling through a blog post, it’s good to know where you are. In longer articles, headers break the text up into easy-to-navigate chunks which improves user experience as you’re not left wondering where you are. Make them bold, for an added bonus, easy to skim-read. 
Heading 1, 2 and 3 with examples
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  • Anchor links and backlinks. Anchor links within the text can skip you to different sections to access information faster. Additional backlinks can then provide more information by linking to other websites which may provide more in-depth details about a topic, or other KBAs with more specific information.
  • An FAQ section. You’re likely to find common questions being asked over and over again. If this is the case, make sure to include a Frequently Asked Questions section that people can refer to.
  • A comments section. Additional questions can be asked and answered either by yourself as a subject matter expert, or by fellow customers who may understand the concepts to a greater degree. This builds confidence in your target audience in their ability to problem solve without directly asking for help.
  • Easy to read. In general, KBAs should use uncomplicated language to make them as accessible as possible. But, if you do need to use specialized jargon, be sure to include definitions. Also, remember to break up the text into manageable pieces. 

What are the different types of knowledge base articles?

There’s no one-size-fits-all for KBAs. Depending on what information you’re trying to convey and how, the style of your article will change. Therefore, it’s important to optimize your content to reach as many people as possible. Often, your audience will go to an article with a certain expectation in their minds of how it will look. 

How-to articles

How-to KBAs offer step-by-step instructions or tutorials on “how to” do something. Think WikiHow. These helpful articles are laid out in chronological order, and often contain pictures, screenshots, or diagrams so that you can be absolutely certain of what you’re doing. 

Other useful mediums for conveying “how-to” information are videos or gifs, especially if your content involves piecing physical parts together. This eliminates potential pain points from not being able to see how moveable components work together in a 3D environment.

Examples:

  • Manual tasks. E.g. “How to cut hair” or “How to change a lightbulb”.
  • Recipes. E.g. “How to make carbonara” or “How to bake a Victoria Sponge”.
  • Technical advice articles for computers, software, or programming. E.g. “How to delete my files” or “How to program with C#”.
A screenshot of the 'How to delete a file' KBA page from Microsoft. It includes numbered bullet points, anchor links, and tip boxes.
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Information article

Information articles are for unfamiliar topics and areas where you don’t necessarily need help, just an explanation. Sometimes they might contain an opinion section, but these will be labeled and easy to distinguish from the rest of the text.

Examples:

  • Reviews. E.g. Product reviews will contain factual information which weighs the pros and cons and offers unbiased information unless otherwise stated. 
  • Wikipedia (but be careful with the distinction – it’s like the common analogy between squares and rectangles)
  • Summaries. E.g. of a book or film
  • User guides. E.g. These tend to be longer articles that span the entirety of a service, with all the relevant information about product features that you need. There can be a lot of crossover into other KBA types.
Screenshot of the first section of the Wikipedia page for Knowledge Base. It contains an introduction, contents, and clear headings.
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Troubleshooting article

These are very similar to how-to articles, with the express difference being that troubleshooting articles focus solely on solving a problem. Again, these articles are likely to contain pictures and step-by-step guides, but may also contain a variety of solutions for a problem in case one doesn’t work. They often list the potential reasons why something has gone wrong in the first place so you can avoid it happening again.

Examples:

  • “Why won’t [x] work?” 
  • “How to fix [y]” 
A screenshot of Lifewire's article on "How to fix it when Facebook Messenger won't load messages". It contains an introduction, clear headings, potential causes, and solutions.
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FAQ articles

Using products inevitably comes with questions, and you might be hearing some of these questions over and over again. An FAQ page is where you can compile the most asked-for pieces of information, which saves your customers time scrolling through several different articles to find what they are looking for.

Examples:

  • Online shops. E.g. For information about products, services, prices, or waiting times on shipping.
  • Social media accounts. E.g. If you want to close your account, open a new one, block somebody, or update your information.
  • Welcome to a website. E.g. We have our very own FAQ section readily available on our website’s ‘Support’ page.
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Help and advice articles

When it comes to more personal problems such as health and well-being, you still want to have access to information. This is where help and/or advice articles come in handy. 

Example:

This is a longer explanation, but stay with us, it will make sense. Healthcare websites, such as the information center for the NHS, present medical information in bite-size chunks. No paragraph is ever more than a line or two. This makes it easier for their readers to scan through and find what exactly they are looking for, rather than picking through a wall of text. 

They also include lists of bullet points detailing potential symptoms, as well as checklists for what you should and should not do if you have a certain condition. The information is spaced out under clearly labeled headings and subheadings for optimal efficiency. 

Additionally, each page is nice and short as it only needs to tell you the most vital information. You don’t need to know about the history of each illness or ailment, only how to look out for and fix your current problem.

A screenshot of the NHS website's KBA on headaches. It includes bold headings for easy navigation, a checklist of things to do if you have a headache, and information on how long they usually last.
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How does a knowledge base help your business?

Developing a good knowledge base is important in more than one way. There are many benefits, both internal and external. 

Internal benefits

Millions of hours are wasted each year around the world searching for documents. With a knowledge base, everything you need is in one easily accessible place. Company-exclusive knowledge bases allow you to:

  • Access useful information faster
  • Communicate better
  • Increase your workflow 
  • Improve productivity
  • Curate an effective support team
  • Visualize where there are gaps in your knowledge 
  • Decrease training times, as relevant information is readily available and doesn’t have to be explained verbally

A strong internal base will contain information about the business you work for (branding guidelines, history, HR resources, etc.), as well as information about your role as an employee (benefits, salary, progression expectations, and so on). You should also be able to find any research conducted by your company, such as market analytics. 

External benefits

People don’t always want to have to rely on others, especially for something relatively simple. Knowledge base content allows your customers to figure things out for themselves in their own time as they research and learn. Advantages can also include:

  • FAQs help solve common problems faster
  • The best knowledge base articles help solidify your company as a useful, reliable source of information for anyone to interact with
  • KBAs can be an asset to your SEO ranking and make your company visible to more people
  • They act well as a customer support system that is available 24/7, able to solve most problems immediately without having to wait for a human support team member
Tom Hanks at a computer smiles, blows on his hands, wiggles his fingers, and then presses a key on his keyboard.
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How can you create your own?

There are a variety of article templates that you can use when it comes to setting up your own KBA – it just depends on what type of information you wish to convey, and how. But first of all, it’s important to have a dedicated area – a knowledge base – where you can store everything at once. 

Creating a knowledge base

Fortunately, we have just the tool. It’s called KnowledgeBase.dev. This is our open-source help base template, free to use, adjustable in design, but it is also already present in HelpCenter.io. We hope this will: 

  • Give you a good foot in the door to improve your customer’s experience with your site
  • Build your confidence in your knowledge management tools
  • Create an initial help desk for your end-users 
  • Provide a platform from which you can develop new articles 

But if you’ve got the basics down to an art and are looking to invest a bit of money, we can offer larger, more rounded packages that can cater to any aspect of your new knowledge base. Here are some of the features we have to offer:

  • AI widget that helps users as they look through your KBAs by suggesting other pages that may offer further help.
  • Article editor with all the trimmings – media compatible, easy linking ability, and formatting guides
  • Multi-language support so you can build a global audience 
  • Relevant insights that analyze your content to see where your users are struggling to engage, allowing you to improve and optimize
  • Universal template – the more advanced version of KnowledgeBase.dev, with customizable segments and real-time change insights.

Our prices range from $79 – $199 a month, but the cost is well worth it when you’re presented with a rich variety of options for creating great knowledge base articles and getting one-up on your competitors. 

Screenshot of the KnowledgeBase.dev homepage, "Your amazing help center". There are links to an FAQ section and trending articles, as well as an option to sign up.
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But we’re certainly not the only people on the market. HelpScout docs is a knowledge base software that helps create and launch your own help center. After their free trial, their prices range from $20 – $65 per month for a standard package.

With HelpScout, you’re able to see what search terms your customers are looking for, and which queries end up being directed to a member of staff because they were not able to find the information they needed. This then allows you to optimize your content to fill in the gaps, resolve pain points, and better cater to your customer’s needs.

Their other products include:

  • Mailbox optimization that allows you to respond to 52% more emails, and keeps your whole team up to date
  • Beacon, the chat box that keeps customers engaged by offering further search results, provides access to their support history and prompts them for reviews of your service so you stay on top of customer satisfaction
  • Workflows automates repetitive tasks to make sure you’re not wasting time and helps decrease how long  it takes to respond to customers.

Knowledge base article templates

Templates are pretty universal, only differing due to the content within them. For each of the KBA types listed, here are some basic templates you can adopt into your knowledge base systems.

How-to template

Title: How to [x, y, z]
Overview of [x, y, z]
Step 1:Tip: [Include if relevant/necessary]Step 2:Step 3:
[Repeat as necessary]
Expected outcome:
Further resources:

Information template

Title: [About product x, y, z]
Description of product:
Product feature 1:Product feature 2:Product feature 3:
[Repeat as necessary]Pros/Cons: 
Final thoughts:
Further resources:

Troubleshooting template

Title: [Name of problem]
Description of problem:
Potential causes:
Solution 1:Solution 2:Solution 3:
[Repeat as necessary]
Expected outcome:
Further resources:

FAQ template

Title: Frequently Asked Questions
Question 1:Answer:
Question 2:Answer:
[Repeat as necessary]
Further resources:

Help and advice template

Title: [Problem/product query]
Overview of issue:
Advice: [Do/Don’t]Expectations:
Further resources:

Final thoughts

Establishing a good knowledge base and a consistent, strong group of articles within it can seem like a daunting task. But internet users expect in their minds what something should look like, so use that to your advantage and make use of the templates displayed here. 

Don’t discredit how useful an effective knowledge base bank can be. Make sure to include relevant links on the homepage of your website for easy navigation. Your customer’s needs should be your number one priority to make sure they keep coming back to you. Also, remember to double-check what you’ve written. Everything should be factual and supported unless explicitly stated otherwise in an opinions section. 

Do you have any more tips on how to build a successful knowledge base article collection? Keep in touch and let us know!